Getting in the ZONE

Posted by Kris Baker on 8/17/2018 7:00:00 AM

I am naturally a very routine individual.  Consequently, this means that the transition from Summer to the start of a new school year can be difficult because there are new routines to learn and “getting in the zone” is a struggle.  Earlier bedtimes, early alarms, a quickened pace in the morning, changes in time for breakfast and lunch can all throw me (a grown adult) “off.” Add to all of those changes a bus ride, walking in to school with several hundred other students, a new teacher, new classmates.  It is no surprise that some students struggle to self-regulate, especially at the beginning of the year. There is no better time than the beginning of the year to proactively teach our students how to identify and manage their emotions.

Zones of Regulation is an approach to pro-actively teach self-regulation by categorizing our different feelings, emotions, and levels of alertness into four defined zones.  “The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling, their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.”  The goal of Zones is to coach students toward independent regulation of their emotions, how to react to the different emotions and to equip students with skills and tools to manage their feelings.

The first step is to help students identify the different zones and equip them with a vocabulary for, and an understanding of, the different leveled zones.  The “Zones” are divided into 4 levels that are determined by our feelings and states of alertness.

“The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored. 

The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone.  This is also the zone where optimal learning occurs.

The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions, however, persons still have some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.  

The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. Kuypers, L. (2017).  

Create a bulletin board or other form of visual support, using the visuals included with the book to support learning and identifying the different emotions and linking those to the different zones.  The visuals below were created with poster board from Walmart ® and the included visuals.


The picture on the  left is from Emily Windell, Kindergarten teacher at Northeast, she has a Zones station where students AND teacher indicate their Zone daily.  The picture on the right is from Hailey Priese at Isom.  


You can use other resources to help with this process such as emoji flash cards that students sort into the different Zones via blue, green, yellow and red folders or envelopes.  There are a plethora of free emotion flashcards online that can be used as sorting activities and then included as independent stations or activities for students to do when their work is finished.  Students can also sort the different emotions into the colored zones with colored cups, bowls or buckets. You can have the students choose a card and either talk about a time that they felt the chosen emotion or something that might trigger that emotion and what zone they would be in with the given emotion.  

Free emotion flashcards using photographs from Have Fun Teaching

Free robot emotion flashcards from Mr P

Free Lego faces flashcards from Encouraging Moms At Home

24 Free emotion flashcards using photographs from Flashcard Online

Free feelings powerpoint from MES-English (You can share the Powerpoint as a class then print the presentation as slides and use the slides as flash cards)

Free emotion flashcards with optional blank faces from Simple Living Creative Learning  (Students can create the facial expression and label the emotion, then place that emotion in a Zone)


Other Resources:  

Zones of Regulation Website

Free Resources from Zones of Regulation


Look ahead A LOOK AHEAD . . . . The next article will illustrate how to model the Zones and how to target talk these emotions and Zones in your general education curriculum.  


Kuypers, L. (2017).


Kris Baker, Autism Consultant